The Book of Undoing: Direct Pointing to Nondual Awareness, by Fred Davis, encourages immediate recognition of our shared true nature. It is an experiential journey, wherein the reader follows a mock client’s Direct Pointing session with the author. These sessions have helped people around the world come to Nondual realization. It’s suggested that the reader actively participate in the question and answer sessions which form the bulk of the book. Fred extends the invitation for you to awaken right here, right now. It’s Here or nowhere. It’s Now or never.
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“Blessed am I to be a window through which creation is amazed to see itself.”
Before Facebook, before blogs, before Yahoogroups, before Live Journal, before everything was easy, there was the wild west of nonduality and Nikhil Tikekar was a pioneer and supporter. Here is a unique and powerful free web publication just released from Nikhil.
Wandering Wonderings: The Meaning of Life and All That
A Light Unto Your Self:
Self Discovery Through Investigation of Experience
‘By observing mental states you also become aware of the seven factors of enlightenment. These are: awareness of awareness, investigation of the Way, vigour, joy, serenity, concentration and equanimity.’ (The Buddha, Maha Sattipatthana Sutta 14-16)
The first two are paramount and the last five are outcomes of these. This is what this book is all about, becoming ‘aware of awareness’ through direct investigation and then continuing with further ‘investigation of the Way’ (the Tao, the nature of reality). Once one is aware of awareness then one can become ‘A Light Unto Yourself’ by undertaking further investigations not needing to relying on any ‘teachings’, although these may be useful for confirming what one has discovered.
Comments from Peter Signell on the Author:
‘I know Colin Drake through his magnificent writing.’
‘Your words seem to always ring so true to me.’
‘You can only imagine how much I have wished for this clarity.’
Read lengthy excerpts and order this e-book for immediate download at http://nonduality.com/colindrake.htm#aluys
176 pages. $8.00
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Prolog: The Story
Rotterdam, an unusually warm evening at the end of March. The promise of spring softly fills the city and the hearts of her inhabitants. It sure fills mine. It makes me uncommonly relaxed and easygoing, mixed with an untamable expectation and a yearning for – yes, what exactly? Well, probably the desire to be free. Free from all the tangles that come with my personal me. To be free from myself. In the end, that’s what drives me, almost monomaniacally, and all my emotions revolve around reaching this goal.
I’m sitting in a cafe, it’s early in the evening and just barely the right time to be reading a while without attracting too much attention. The tall man with his stubbly beard, sitting beside me, seems to think the same. He’s reading, like me. The two of us are like an island of tranquility within the hectic social interaction bursting loose all around us at this very moment. Is it the feeling of springtime coming? Is it the undefined sense of loss, which seems to translate itself into a longing for contact and mingles with the feeling of informality? I don’t know the answer, but even though most of the time I clam up around other people, it suddenly makes me open up towards my reading companion. He’s reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I notice. I know the book. For me it was so overwhelming I read it straight through, twice. At over 800 pages, this was an all-encompassing and deliciously long immersion in a universe in which large and small, cosmic scale and triviality mingle to give rise to a liberating ecstasy of estrangement. Perhaps this is what I’m looking for. Will the man beside me be getting the same message from the book?
The man has a relaxed friendly look in his eyes. On impulse I decide to ask him the question. “Pardon,” I say in Dutch, “mag ik u wat vragen?”
“English please,” he replies with a northern European accent.
“Excuse me, may I ask you something?” I try again. He answers with a small nod. “Would you agree that this book is about freedom?”
The man looks me straight into the eyes. Friendly, I hear myself think in a flash, and at the same time I realize that his expression hasn’t changed at all from when he looked up from his book, nor has it now after hearing the question. The same kindness – no more, no less. Suddenly I hear myself add to my question:
“…about enlightenment?” Immediately I feel embarrassed. Why did I say that? How can he possibly know what I’m talking about? He must think I’m an idiot!
The same instant the redness of shame creeps onto my cheeks, the man himself comes to my rescue, saying, “That’s exactly what this book is about.”
My heart jumps with joy! I’m saved, and I seem to have found someone who could be on the same wavelength as me. Out of relief I show him the book I am reading, and translate the Dutch title: You are not what you think. The book is written by a Dutch guru I visited a couple of times recently, and who I am rather taken with. I understand exactly what he is talking about, which gives me a pleasant and quite hopeful feeling.
“This book is about enlightenment too, but in a direct way; through accounts of satsangs. Are you familiar with the term ‘satsang’?” I ask him.
The man smiles. “Yes,” he says. “That book, going by the title, might be about enlightenment. But it’s not about realization. Neither book is about realization.”
His answer takes me by surprise. “Excuse me, what did you say?” I ask a little bewildered. “Realization and enlightenment mean the same thing, I would think…”
“If your book was about realization, the title would be You are not what you are,” says the man, grinning and still looking at me with the same friendliness as before. Unmoved kindness, I find myself thinking, I didn’t know that was possible. But still his answer makes no sense to me. “I don’t understand,” I blurt, trying desperately to get a grip on his answers. You’re not what you are? How, what…?
“Of course you don’t understand,” he replies, “because if you could, it wouldn’t be about realization. But can you follow it?”
Now I am totally lost, and when I hear myself answer “Yes,” it feels like I have just lost my last ally – still being looked at by those unmoved friendly eyes. For an instant there is silence: while I can hear the murmuring sounds around me, this noise seems to be drawn into a bottomless pit and I’m sucked into it too. I’m here, but I’m also gone. What is happening?
~ ~ ~
“Dear guys and girls,
We are about to engage in a series of what this mule Zil calls ‘SlamSatS’. Although that which we are pursuing has no form and is older than the world, older than time in fact, the way we will be pursuing it does have a form, and it may strike some as ‘new’. It isn’t, it is just a variation on the ancient ‘neti-neti’ – not this, not that – approach, be it using a modern vocabulary and expanding itself to persons, enlightened beings and everything else you might hold holy.
Remember as we go on: if you take something personally, look at what it is in you that takes it personally, because it will be something that still thinks it’s a person. Mind you, even mules in full view can get insulted. But that would be on topics like their car or their wife. On matters concerning realization they cannot be insulted, because their certainty is not on that level. If, concerning realization, any feelings of hurt or insult might come up in them anyhow, both the insult and the insulter for them will be the source of deep gratitude, because it means something lit up that subsequently was destroyed by the mere fact it was in full view.
~ ~ ~
Separation and Oneness
1 (20) Sometimes I get a long period of oneness, but then it’s followed by a feeling of separation. How does this happen?
2 Separation is a thought, do you see that, 20?
3 No Zil, actually I don’t. I mean, it’s not something I invent, it’s something I perceive, like I perceive this room… and what you say…
4 That’s what you think, but it is not true. There’s this oneness, everything is fine and warm and whatever – and then all of a sudden: ‘separation’…
5 Yes, that’s what happens.
6 Or so it seems. What’s the crux of oneness?
7 Well, absence of separation – or is that just being silly?
8 No, it’s extremely well put in fact. There’s no separation in oneness. So can oneness recognize separation, does separation have any meaning to oneness?
9 No, that doesn’t seem possible…
10 It isn’t. So what can recognize separation, something that doesn’t know about it or something that already knows?
11 The second one, I guess.
12 Right you are again. In order to recognize separation, there first has to arise something in which the seed of
separation is already present. Which is you, small you, mule. There has to be the belief in an entity that is separated already and only when that has formed, the experience ‘separation’ can arise. Which means that ‘separation’ is a belief, a thought of this entity – which in its turn consists of a belief called ‘experience’. Thus, separation is a thought of an experience. A belief within a belief.
13 But it doesn’t feel like a thought, and on the face of it it doesn’t feel like ego either!
14 You can see that it must be there first, can’t you?
15 I would have to admit that’s the only answer.
16 So mule is there already, only it has not been recognized as such yet. A moment later it takes the shape of separation and then your good mood is ruined. Do you know how it is possible for mule to already exist in that oneness you talk about?
17 I think I’m scared to find out.
18 You’d better, because it will hurt. It is possible for mule, because the oneness you experience is mule too. It’s an experience, an experience of oneness. That should have made your alarm go off. Every experience is mule, baby.
19 Damn. So there is no oneness?
20 Yes there is, but never as an experience. Realization does not belong to a level, experience does. Experienced oneness may be a side effect of the realization of oneness, but that does not mean experienced oneness is the same as realization. It’s a common mistake of enlightened mules to forget that. And as a result getting attached to this great oneness-experience. Like you are. Separation is a thought, oneness an experience. Both come up. Accept that they do, accept that their appearance does not matter at all. Then you won’t be fooled by them.
21 But… if the experience of oneness isn’t the oneness itself, what’s the point of being realized?
22 None at all for mule. None at all for oneness either, because oneness cannot become more one by realization. The realization that you want, the goodies that you expect – they are all part of muleworld. And muleworld will never become one, because it only exists by the grace of separation. Seeming separation, because all is one and will remain so no matter if you realize that or not. That’s why I say nothing changes with realization. There’s only experience, and experience does not exist…
23 So why should I…
24 …try, want, strife? You shouldn’t, it won’t help you a bit. You don’t have to either, let me show you. Get out. (points at the door)
~ ~ ~
1 (32) Lately I feel like I’m getting more and more attached to silence. And I’m starting to get the idea that you use a lot of words. Why do you do that? Isn’t realization all about silence?
2 Realization is silence, 32. Nothing more silent than nothing. But that silence has nothing to do with the ‘little silence’ you are describing. Your silence has an opposite called ‘noise’. In this case the noise of my words. That silence is disturbed by the words – and by the thoughts they provoke on your side. The silence that can be realized is not only the silence that noise comes in and disappears into again, but also the silence that your little silence comes up in and disappears into again when it’s replaced by noise.
3 The real silence is a roaring, thunderous silence, a silence that is as much present in a meditation cave in the Himalayas as right in front of the Rolling Stones performing. Every noise in this seeming world, and every silence, consists only of this. Once your mule is in full view, it is aware of this silence all the time. Not as silence as such, but translated into some quality of ‘shhhhh’ that cannot be otherwise described. Within this ‘shhhhh’ everything happens, while the ‘shhhhh’ makes this happening somewhat translucent, somewhat not happening at the same time. Which is the actual situation, or non-situation in fact. Your question and the world of images and judgments behind it, get slaughtered the same way by this ‘shhhhh’. When that happens, it turns out that these words, however agitated they may seem, reflect the roaring silence in a very, very clear and tranquil way.
4 (19) So you mean that the sense that I find your blustering annoying is the sense that I am deaf for the real silence?
5 My dear mule, these words you just uttered were utterly worthwhile to utter, because they present your aggravation as a barrier. So they are useful. But they’re not true of course. That what can hear is not you. You consist of deafness. There’s no way you may hear the silence, you’ll never experience you being dead either. You are the barrier itself. You’ll have to die first and who will hear the silence then?
6 But you said that the silence can be heard.
7 I did not. I said its effect can be perceived. This effect is described as ‘shhhhh’, but it is not a sound, it’s a translation into a quality. But not a quality that can be perceived as such. The only sign of its existence is what it causes in its turn: a translucence of everything that formerly was solidly existing within space and time.
8 But isn’t music a much more effective way to point at that?
9 You’re all undoubtedly familiar with the ‘finger pointing at the moon’ phrase. And you all know that looking at the finger instead of the moon is a mistake, don’t you?
10 Well, there are two problems with music. First, it’s designed to enchant you, which is looking at the finger. However, you might be able to get past that first trap, look at what the finger is pointing at and suppose that is the moon: some higher principle of beauty and tranquility. Suppose you indeed are able to experience truth in some shape or another. Then you might say that the music does help to make you become aware of this moon, doesn’t it? Maybe even gets you there, which at least must be awfully close to that?
11 Yes, that’s what I experience and why it seems such a good way…
12 …to point at the moon. Well, maybe it is. But what moon is the finger pointing at? Clearly something you can imagine, feel, suspect… and ultimately even experience. Which means it must be something that’s part of muleworld too. Only when it is part of your world or part of your imagination, what I just described can happen, can’t it? Now, lots of spoken word is positive, imaginative, describing the indescribable – and as such pointing at a moon. And I agree, lots of times music can do that kind of pointing better.
13 But how about a sentence like “That whole pointing at the moon business is pure muleshit because the moon consists of finger”? What music can give you that precise notion? What music can break itself to pieces like the words in these SlamSatS do? Words that describe the moon in a way that says “These words point at the moon. But don’t be mistaken: the moon that you can perceive, imagine or even suspect as being pointed at by these words is not the moon they point at”… Only words can be wielded with the precision needed to kill themselves on the spot. Bang! It’s a bloody self-sacrificing bloodbath! And as such leaving behind nothing alive or in one piece, which is as close as you can get to describing the moon.
~ ~ ~
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What is the essential nature of a human being?
What is the nature and purpose of this creation?
What is the purpose of life?
Humanity: Our Place in the Universe
The Central Beliefs of the World’s Religions
by Colin Drake
E-book is $8 by PayPal. Click her to order and download now.
[References are not included in these excerpts. The book cites over 200 references.]
From the Chapter, Judaism:
In Judaism consideration is given to the orthodox scriptural view and that of Kabbalah, literally ‘received’ wisdom, which is a mystical path based on a number of Aramaic texts from the late 13th century, which together constitute the Zohar. These were probably composed by the Spanish mystic Moses de Leon, who maintained that they were based on the writings of a famous rabbi from the second century C.E., Simeon bar Yohai.
Kabbalists maintain that this process of purification and achieving perfection is necessary for the soul to finally break out of the cycle of transmigration and eventually return to God. However, there is no hint of this in the Torah which states that man is composed of and returns to dust. As for heaven, where this word occurs in the Torah it can be equated to ‘the heavens’ or the sky/firmament; and ‘the underworld’ (in the Basic English Bible) is translated as ‘grave’ (in the St James Bible) or ‘pit’ (in the New English Bible). There are also passages in the Torah which warn of the dire consequences of disobeying God’s laws, but these are always couched in worldly terms such as plagues, fevers, defeats, famines, desolation and exile. Nowhere are these couched in terms of any after-worldly fate awaiting such ‘sinners’. It is true that later books of the Tanakh have passages that can be read to imply belief in the afterlife, but these could well be due to the influence of Hellenistic ideas in which the afterlife figured prominently. As Rabbi Michael Levin says,
In the Torah there are no explicit references to a “world to come” nor are there any statements referring to an individual judging of souls… Intriguingly by the time you get to the Talmud, approximately 1800 years ago, you find that most of the words used to describe the afterlife come from the Greek … Most Jews in the US – almost 85 per cent – belong to branches of Judaism which do not accept any sort of afterlife.
~ ~ ~
From the Chapter, Christianity:
In Christianity consideration is mainly given to fundamentalist Christians who believe in the literal truth of the Bible and to Catholicism which is the most widely adhered to of the various denominations. Christadelphianism is used as an example of a fundamentalist viewpoint, although other fundamentalists may interpret the literal truth of the Bible differently.
The Christadelphian view is of man as a physical being who is animated by ‘the breath of God’ and who dies when this is withdrawn. However, that there is the possibility of resurrection indicates that humans have a personal-essence which survives death, albeit unconsciously, and can be reborn. Quite how or where this ‘essence’ survives is not clear, certainly not in the original body which decomposes after death; maybe in the ‘mind of God’ from which everything is created. This essence is rather like the software (in a computer) which cannot function without its compatible hardware. So this essence, having been ‘stored’ on the death of the original body, can only function in a compatible body which must be reborn on the Day of Judgement. The Catholic view, by comparison, is pure Descartian dualism in which the essence is an immortal soul placed in a physical body which survives and lives independently after the death of that body.
~ ~ ~
From the Chapter, Islam:
This chapter will consider orthodox Muslim views based on the Qur’an and those of the Sufis, the mystical arm of Islam. The Sufis comprise many different sects, each with its own practices, all of which have the same aim: that of achieving union with God whilst alive, and this is to be realized by attaining ‘the death of the conventional self’ (fana).
According to the Sufi Jili, man is created in the image of God and the universe is created in the image of man; not only that, but man represents the world-spirit so that when mankind exits from the universe it will perish in the same way that an animal dies when the spirit leaves. Man is made in the image of God so he is unique in creation and has the potential to be the vessel through which the Hidden Treasure might be known, in fact can know itself. This can only occur when man stops identifying himself as a separate individual and realizes his one-ness with the Absolute. In other words, this represents the mystical interpretation of the Godhead and its relationship to humanity. In Sufism, man is considered to be a complete microcosm, a miniature universe, containing all the elements and potential qualities of creation. For him the universe was created, and he was created, to serve God.
Muslims believe that man, as made by God, is pure, free from any ‘original sin’ and is naturally inclined to be righteous and serve God. However, when caught in the snare of superstition, customs, selfish desires and false teachings, he can easily revert to the animal level of greed, lust and selfishness. As to whether man has an immortal soul separate from the body, the Muslim position is not clear. There are many references in the Qur’an to ‘killing souls’, and it is stated quite clearly that ‘every soul shall taste death’ (Q 21 v.35 and 29 v.57). Muslims believe that when one dies, the body is destroyed, but the essence of a person goes into a kind of limbo state of semi-consciousness (barzakh) awaiting the day of resurrection. This is not the same as the Descartian view of the soul as a separate entity, for this ‘essence’ still requires a body which will be provided on the day of resurrection. However, those who are judged the foremost of the foremost transcend this need for a body and achieve ‘union with God Himself in a realm that is beyond comprehension and description.’
This does indicate some kind of spiritual essence which can exist permanently separate from a body, but only when it achieves such purity that it can be reabsorbed back into the Godhead. To indicate this essence Sufis use the word nafs which means breath, life-force, soul, spirit, self, individual substance and pure essence. There are different levels of nafs through which one must pass on the journey to union with the divine such as mineral, vegetable, animal and various levels of human development. This is beautifully illustrated by Rumi, the great Sufi poet, who wrote:
I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as a plant and became an animal,
I died as an animal and became a man,
What is there to fear? When have I ever become less by dying?
And as a man I shall die once more to soar
With the blessed Angels, but even from angelhood
I must pass on; Everything perishes save His Face
And when I have given up my angel soul
I shall become that which no mind has ever grasped.
So let me not exist!
For non-existence proclaims in organ tones:
‘From Him we come and to Him we shall return.’
This journey takes place by the purification of the self so that one returns to that original purity of man created in the image of God. The contemporary Turkish Sufi Said Nursi, who is well known for his 5,000 page Epistle of Light collection of commentaries on the Qur’an, has an interesting opinion on the nature of this self as ‘an abstract entity whose sole function is to act as a kind of yardstick against which God’s names (i.e. his attributes) can be measured.’ Through one’s own limited attributes one can extrapolate from them God’s attributes as being similar but on a much vaster cosmic scale. The ‘I’ is a mirror-like device through which one can affirm the existence of and glimpse, the Absolute. It is when one takes the ‘I’ to be a real separate entity, which claims individual ownership of its attributes, that one falls and is cut off from God.
~ ~ ~
From the Chapter, Hinduism:
Advaita Vedantists teach that Brahman is the creation, everything in manifestation, as well as being its origin, cause and final dissolution:
The Lord of Love (Brahman ) willed: “Let there be many!”
He who has no form assumed many forms;
He who is infinite appeared finite;
He who is everywhere assumed a place;
He who is all wisdom caused ignorance;
He who is real caused unreality.
It is He who gives reality to all.
Before the universe was created,
Brahman existed as unmanifest.
(Taittiriya Upanishad Part II 6.1-7.1)
This creation occurs in cycles, emanating from the One, expanding until it reaches a certain point, when it contracts back to a point. Then once again creation occurs, expands, and finally contracts back to the One, and so on ad infinitum. This occurs ‘over an incalculable period of time’, and can be likened to a never ending series of ‘big bangs’, expansions, contractions and ‘big crunches’. The reason for this creation is that Brahman wills it: ‘because He likes to; because He is free’, and its purpose is for His enjoyment and play. Also, the unmanifest Brahman wished to behold Himself and by manifesting into ‘the many’ He could achieve this.
Gaudiya Vaishnavas also believe in cyclical creation, with each cycle being a ‘breath of Vishnu’ lasting four billion three hundred million years, and that Krishna created the material world by creating three different energies which assume the form of three different Vishnus. These are the Karanodakasayi Vishnu, mahat-tattwa, the total material energy; Garbodakasayi Vishnu, the energy which creates the many diverse forms; and Kshirodakasayi Vishnu, the Paramatman, which is the all-pervading supersoul ‘who is present even within the atoms’. These three Vishnus are incarnations of Krishna who direct the activities of the material world. The first is the ’cause of all causes and lies in the cosmic causal ocean beyond the highest spiritual world’, who becomes the cause of the universe by glancing towards Maya, Krishna’s inferior energy. The second manifests as Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, which are known as the guna descents of Garbodakasayi Vishnu. Of these, Brahma creates, Vishnu preserves and Siva destroys the material universe. The third (Kshirodakasayi Vishnu) is the supersoul of all beings.
~ ~ ~
From the Chapter, Buddhism:
With regard to self-identity, Buddhists maintain that there is no eternal self, soul, or atman: a theory they call anatta, which literally means ‘no atman’. They regard persons as being a combination of physical material form and mental states of feeling, perception, disposition (intentions/volitions) and consciousness. These five are known as the bundle of aggregates (kandhas), each of which combine with the others in a dynamic bundle. This bundle exists moment to moment, with each bundle-moment causing the following bundle-moment. Thus the impression of the continuity of a person is given by a series of instantaneous causally linked person stages (bundle-moments) flowing into each other. At death it is claimed that the bundle of aggregates, except the material form, reconfigures in accordance with karmic causation, unless the person has attained nirvana, in which case no re-birth occurs. The new bundle is then reborn into a material form and circumstances commensurate with the karmic residue of the previous bundle. Thus the Buddhists deny that there is any sort of persisting entity (self) that continues over time. A person appears to exist and continue as a separate entity; but this is an illusion. Just as a river is not in fact a single entity but a continuous flow of water, so a person is a flow of causally linked person stages (bundle-moments).
Mahayana and Tibetan Buddhism have expanded the concept of anatta to that of emptiness, Shunyata:
“Early Buddhism, with its teaching on not-self, or Anatta, taught that there is no such thing as an enduring self or soul… As Buddhism developed the Anatta doctrine was subsumed into something more extensive in which all phenomena were seen to be ‘empty’ of self or essence.”
This means that literally everything is empty, like a magical illusion. Or, to put another way, everything is a ‘conceptual construct and has no own-existence, empty of individual primary irreducible existence’. This corresponds with the string theory which says everything is composed of strings of energy vibrating at different frequencies, thus nothing has any intrinsic irreducible existence. The present Dalai Lama states that ‘all phenomena are empty and selfless’ and maintains that this understanding is much more powerful than the mere recognition of anatta, no-self.
~ ~ ~
From the Chapter, Ramakrishna – A Living Example:
This chapter is about the Indian saint and mystic Sri Ramakrishna, who was chosen to highlight the themes explored in this book because of his broad range of experience in following many different spiritual paths. Such was his spiritual aptitude that it enabled him to reach the zenith, the culmination, in an amazingly short time, of any practice to which he turned his mind and being. Whereas most mystics struggle along a single path for a whole (some would say more than one) lifetime, often without reaching the ultimate experience obtainable, Sri Ramakrishna was able to complete every path that he tried in less than six months. This makes him particularly useful to study as he followed four of the ten paths previously considered; whereas most anyone else that could have been chosen would have only followed one.
Ramakrishna verified, for him by his own experiences, many diverse Hindu paths, Islam and Christianity. He found that they all lead to at least one of the three aspects of God: the personal in form, the personal without form (the formless with attributes) and the formless without attributes. Indeed many of them led to all three, commencing with a vision of God in form, graduating to communion with the formless God with attributes and culminating in complete union with the formless Absolute. Although he did not practice Buddhism, he held the Buddha in high regard, denying that he was an atheist by remarking:
“He was not an atheist. He simply could not express his inner experience in words. Do you know what Buddha means? It is to become one with Bodha, Pure Intelligence, by meditating on That which is of the nature of pure intelligence; it is to become Pure Intelligence Itself.”
Whilst he did not completely agree with the world-view of any particular path, that of Advaita Vedanta and Sufism being nearest to his own views, he had no doubt that all religious paths, if practiced with sincerity and devotion, lead to God-realization. He admitted that all religions contain superstitions and errors, but maintained that this did not matter if the devotee had a deep yearning for God and said that all of the different names that people use for God denote the same Absolute Reality. He decried sectarianism and religious elitism in any form, for as far as he was concerned ‘each religion is only a path leading to God, as rivers come from different directions and ultimately become one in the ocean.’
Although followers of particular religions may disagree with this and promote the primacy of their own views, they have not had the breadth of spiritual experience of Ramakrishna. It is indeed fortunate that he was born a Hindu, for Hinduism has not, in general, denied the validity of other religions; although followers of particular Hindu paths have tended to promote their own path as the best, or easiest, way to God-realization. Within this Hindu framework Ramakrishna, who had such love of and yearning for God, plus possessing a deep interest in all spiritual paths, was able to thrive. His view was that God provides different paths to suit the many different temperaments, tendencies and states of spiritual development, of humanity, and that no path has pre-eminence over any other. About this he said:
“God Himself has provided different forms of worship. He who is the Lord of the Universe has arranged all these forms to suit different men in different stages of knowledge. The mother cooks different dishes to suit the stomachs of her different children. Suppose she has five children. If there is a fish to cook, she prepares various dishes from it – pilau, pickled fish, fried fish and so on – to suit their different tastes and powers of digestion.”
~ ~ ~
From the Chapter, Comparison and Conclusion:
It is interesting to note that Sufism, Kabbalah and Advaita Vedanta all fit into the same categories – coming from God, having an essence which can achieve union with the Godhead and finally merging back into this Godhead. As previously noted it could be posited that this also applies to Buddhism. There are also Christian mystics who have had similar ideas, most notably Dionysius the Areopagite and Meister Eckhart. For Dionysius God was The ‘Hidden Dark’ and ‘The Cause beyond all causes’, who ‘overflows into all of creation’ ; with whom one could achieve union, becoming ‘united, in his better part, to the altogether Unknown’. Meister Eckhart posits an Absolute Godhead with which we can achieve union and about which he said,
“When I enter the ground, the bottom, the stream and the source of the Godhead, no one asks me where I came from or where I have been. No one missed me there, for there even God [the creator] disappears.”
Thus it could be argued that there are mystical streams of all five religions which share the concept of humans as beings that come from, contain an essence of and return to God or The Absolute.
One other topic which has not been systematically studied, but which also affects our world-view and concept of self-identity, is the function of a human being. This has become apparent in many of the paths that have been considered and, whilst linked to the purpose of life, it is not the same thing. For instance, in Advaita Vedanta the function of a human being is as an instrument of Brahman through which He can sense, interact with, experience and enjoy the world, whereas the purpose of life is to realize one’s unity with Brahman.
[References to quotations and ideas are given in the complete volume. They have not been included as part of these excerpts.]
Humanity: Our Place in the Universe, by Colin Drake
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This is sad. There was a time when you would go into the Bodhi Tree Bookstore and they would refuse to sell you a book on Kundalini because it was only for advanced spiritual practitioners.
The store had depth and mystery with framed photos of strange gurus on the walls, customers sitting in full lotus in order to “be in” in the atmosphere, and odd, obscure books appealing to the very few.
But times changed.
A few years later it became like, “Hi Guys, welcome to the Bodhi Tree. Our special today is any Kundalini book for five dollars!”
The best days of my life were spent in the Bodhi Tree. Or, rather, driving my ’69 Charger (green with a black vinyl top) from Santa Monica up to the Bodhi Tree, exploring the used and new book stores, buying a few things, maybe picking up one of the free books they often gave away, then dropping into Pinks for a chili dog (sometimes I’d be the only one there), purchasing a good cigar on Fairfax, and taking a long drive back home, leaving behind exhaust and cigar smoke.
If I had all those books and that ’69 Charger today … I’d be rich and happy.
Goodbye Bodhi Tree. There was one small section in your used bookstore that I used to enjoy looking at so I bought all the books in the section. I still have them. Goodbye.
Farewell to the Bodhi Tree Bookstore
Old friend set to close this year
By Gendy Alimurung
published: February 11, 2010
The founding owners of the Bodhi Tree Bookstore are dealing with the closure of their L.A. institution as only spiritualists can. “In our best Buddhist sense, we try to incorporate the idea that things always change,” says Phil Thompson, who, along with Stan Madson, opened the Bodhi Tree 40 years ago. Through the years, their cozy Melrose Avenue shop became a nationally known, much beloved center for Buddhists, astrologers, psychics, yogis, swamis, acupuncturists, naturists and others seeking enlightenment.
Thompson and Madson decided to sell the property to a local business owner who leases space to several other nearby retailers. The store will be closed within a year, they say.
Making the choice was grueling. “This wasn’t a weekend decision where we got out the I-Ching and tossed the coins,” Thompson says.
The history of the Bodhi Tree is, in a sense, a history of L.A. The space was once a costume shop. Before that, it was a house. In those days, the hulking blue Pacific Design Center was a lumberyard, and the fancy furniture stores were gas stations, butcher shops and delicatessens.
In time, hotels and apartments replaced humble single-family bungalows. The 1994 Northridge earthquake scared the Bodhi Tree’s next-door neighbors into moving away. Thompson and Madson bought the neighbor’s property and added a Bodhi Tree annex.
Property values in the area have risen sharply over the years, leading to one of the many quintessentially Los Angeles geographic ironies: The spiritual center where you can learn to divest yourself of all materialism is currently located across the street from chichi boutique Kitson — a favorite of Hollywood ingénues — and a store hawking $10,000 bathtubs.
The neighborhood has indeed grown pricey. Thompson and Madson paid $650,000 for the two properties. The land and structure’s current assessed value is $2.7 million (their real estate agent will not disclose the pending-sale price).
Thompson and Madson were aerospace engineers at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica before starting the store in their 30s, abandoning a life of science for one of contemplation and meditation.
As aerospace engineers, he and Madson worked on weapons of mass destruction. “We basically figured out how to make them more destructive,” Thompson says. “Missiles in space. That’s what we did.”
But the two men reached their limit at “the thermonuclear-war part,” Madson says. “We said, ‘We don’t want to do that.’ ”
Their bookstore filled a need, the men found. People were asking, “Who am I? What am I doing? Where is my life going? What are we really doing here?”
The two are now in their early 70s. They speak slowly. Madson is more reticent. Thompson has a slyer sense of humor.
Characteristics of the engineer persist in them, however, as they deconstruct the architecture of the Bodhi Tree’s breakdown.
Their book sales have been declining for 15 years. The material they sell was once hard to find, giving the Bodhi Tree a strong presence in a niche market. But over the years, that material has grown in popularity, and gone mainstream. In a way, they have proselytized themselves out of business.
“Twenty years ago we felt like it was an expanding situation,” Madson says. “We were concerned the store was getting too big. We had a staff of 100. Publishing was expanding. Spirituality was expanding. But what changed was that the market became widely dispersed.”
“We’re no longer the only place in half the country that has this material,” Thompson adds.
Books on Wicca and Santeria and Native American shamanism used to be tough to find. Now every Borders and Barnes & Noble carries them. What can’t be bought at a brick-and-mortar shop can undoubtedly be found online, inexpensively. Madson quotes a figure: 50 percent of all spiritual books sold in the U.S. are bought on Amazon.com.
Another blow came when international shipping rates rose. People who ordered from overseas defected to Amazon, which could save on rates by shipping from its various branches around the globe.
As if that weren’t enough, the Bodhi Tree’s parking situation deteriorated. When the area incorporated into West Hollywood, most of the surrounding streets became “permit only.” Customers stopped coming literally overnight.
The men are hazy on exactly when that took place. “It’s not one of the pleasant memories,” Thompson says wryly. Eventually, the question of how much to grow the store became one of how long to hold on.
Letting go has been tough. The place has the feel of an old friend. The floors creak. The walls are permeated with the smell of incense. Two chubby bookstore cats roam the aisles and pause to be petted by customers who know each kitty by name. Thompson and Madson built most of the wood shelves and fixtures themselves.
On a recent day, Thompson walks the familiar aisles, noting the pictures of gurus on the walls. He tidies books in the UFOs and Inner Healing sections, passes an entire shelf of Wayne Dyer titles, and ends up in the backyard. “This is where we have the pagan rituals,” he says, half-joking.
People have been asking if they have made any provision for the real Bodhi tree growing in the backyard parking lot. It was given to them by a neighbor 30 years ago as a potted seedling. It is now heavy with figs and deeply rooted in concrete, with a trunk too big to put your arms around. They don’t know what will happen to it. Thompson figures the tree will be destroyed, chopped into firewood by the new owners.
Thompson prefers to believe that the bookstore has helped people who were lost, who were trying to discover who they are — whether that journey was through Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity or Islam. Both men worry about what will happen to the community once the store is gone. Where will people go for spiritual solace? “Perhaps a wealthy philosopher-entrepreneur will come in to buy the store and keep it going,” Thompson suggests. “A sort of philosopher king. Or queen.”
Madson believes that to continue, the store needs vitality, new energy and vision.
“We’re old-school booksellers,” he says. “We like that model. I’m not sure we’re the ones who should lead it into the next stage.”
Thompson’s 20-something son had ideas for the property before it was sold: He wanted to turn it into a microbrewery and surf shop.
The young man said he would “keep some of the books around,” Thompson mutters, shaking his head. “On the other hand, he does make pretty good beer.”
~ ~ ~
More photos of the Bodhi Tree Bookstore here:
The Wild Song of Standing Free, a book I wrote in a couple of weeks in 1997 as preparation for beginning my online work in nonduality, is available at no charge at
The book consists of short poetical verses inspired by the Avadhuta Gita:
“The title of this book is consumed. The beginning of this book is consumed. The middle of this book is consumed. The end of this book is consumed. This entire book is non-existent. To say the book is non-existent is to say it is existent. The sea of existence and non-existence is parted. All is essenced by the interval. There I know the One Day. There I Stand Free. The author is essenced.”
“Clearly I have not a body; nor have I knowledge of the Absolute. I am the Absolute. Do not think that I am in any way separate from any entity or that there are any entities at all.”
“I do not subscribe to anything; there is nothing to subscribe to. There is nothing manifest. There is nothing deep or wonderful. No out-of-sling purpose to anything. No secrets. No sevens.”
“The Truth is not a man or woman; it is not an idea or an intuition; it is not joyful or sorrowful; it is not bliss, being or consciousness. It is: I am the One Standing Free.”
Here’s one last reminder about our LIVE BOOK CALL TONIGHT WITH AUTHOR GARY CROWLEY FROM LEAP!
Gary will be answering questions live and sharing his thoughts from his new book.
Ask Gary anything you’d like or simply relax and listen as he shares with everyone…………. In a genre loaded with books about the serious business of enlightenment, Gary Crowley’s new book, “Pass the Jelly,” shows us we can frequently find humor on the road to awakening. I highly recommend this book and free call to anyone interested in laughing their way to practical enlightenment.
Here are the details of the call:
Date: January 25th
6-7 p.m. Pacific Standard Time
7-8 p.m.Mountain Standard Time
8-9 Central Standard Time
9-10 Eastern Standard Time
Dial In Phone Number is: 1.760.569.6000
At the prompt, please enter access code: 954541*
Enjoy your Human Amusement Park,
Ike & Chad The Leap! Guys
800 Ptarmigan Run